'Call of Duty: Black Ops 4' Blackout Can Do Things 'Fortnite' Can't
When Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 launches, it will introduce the world to Blackout, a new Battle Royale experience with Fortnite directly in its crosshairs. But is this just another lame copycat attempt or is Blackout worth your time?
To find out, Inverse spoke to Dan Bunting, co-studio head at Call of Duty developer Treyarch, about how Blackout creates “action movie moments” that similar games can’t match, while still offering everything Fortnite players love and so much more.
“Battle Royale, in general, has a measure of unpredictability that makes it inherently entertaining,” Bunting says. “CoD water cooler moments of the past were highly scripted, but now we’re building a fan sandbox where the water cooler moments are things they’ve created.”
Call of Duty fans got a chance to test out Blackout last month during an early beta and quickly pushed that sandbox to its limits in unexpected ways. Even Bunting says he was surprised by some of the things players accomplished.
“I watched a video of someone putting a Trophy System — basically a missile defense system — inside of a helicopter,” he says. “So when someone locked onto the helicopter it would detonate them before they arrived.”
Like in Fortnite, the creative ways people combine various items and resources can lead to endless variations of gameplay, but now players are experimenting with a Call of Duty-style tool chest of powerful weapons and vehicles, rather than the somewhat limited (and often childish) loadout available in Fortnite.
“There was one really awesome video clip of someone diving out of a helicopter, landing in the back of a cargo truck, shooting the driver, and taking it over,” Bunting says. “It was an action movie moment! You can’t just plan for something like that to happen.”
By comparison, the coolest “water cooler” moment to come out of Fortnite this week was a bewildering use of the Chiller ice trap with a Grappler to slide across wooden panels at an inhuman speed. Fortnite has magical building mechanics, gravity-defying purple cubes, and golf carts. Call of Duty: Blackout has battle armor, ATVs, boats, helicopters, and real-life military grade weaponry.
Anyone tired of Fortnite’s freemium approach will also be happy to learn that outfits and other cosmetic items are earned through in-game quests in Call of Duty Black Ops 4 — rather than spending in-game currency. In the new CoD you’ll discover artifacts that trigger special tasks or challenges, allowing you to unlock new characters.
“They’re Easter eggs that lead directly into challenges,” Bunting says. “That’s the system that drives all character unlocks.”
Blackout also integrates the popular Call of Duty Zombies game mode. Zombies roam the map alongside human-controlled characters. You’ll also find special weapons designed to kill these undead enemies, and you can expect plenty of zombie-focused Blackout events moving forward. They might even tie into the Battle Royale mode’s larger narrative.
Treyarch will also continue to developer and update Blackout — and the rest of Call of Duty Black Ops 4 — in the near future, turning the game into a living and changing world much like Fortnite.
“We have a history at the studio of updating each new game frequently,” Bunting says. “In Black Ops 3, we updated on a daily basis for six months to a year. You’ll see much more transparency this time around.”
You can expect to see regular patch notes shared publicly as a way to keep players informed on the latest events and updates to the game. That could includes changes to the map, along with new weapons and vehicles.
Perhaps most importantly in the world of Fortnite and Twitch, Blackout is designed with watchability in mind. So simply watching someone play the game live should be just as fun as playing it yourself.
“As a developer that makes you approach it differently,” Bunting says. “We want it to be just as interesting if you’re playing, watching over a shoulder, or on a live-stream.”
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 launches October 12 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.